the graphic design blog that speaks the truth

We all use stock photography, there is no point in denying it, it’s the cheapest and most accessible means of obtaining images that would normally only be made available by commissioning a professional photographer. However, now that stock photography is used in abundance, especially in web design, there are certain images that have become widely regarded as cliches. I have compiled a list of the 10 Biggest Stock Photography Cliches which you should avoid if you are to create a unique design:

10. The Telephone


Give us a call! Normally seen on the contact page as the easiest method of visual communicating that a business is available by phone. If you can find a photo of an old fashined phone then even worse.

9. The Huddle


Nothing says unity more than a group of people huddled in a circle, right? This image is used to try and show that a business is fun, friendly and approachable, unlike their competitors who just use the standard serious business team pose as shown in cliche number 3. Group Hug!

8. The Dollar


Money, money, money, after all that’s what every business is in the game for, well, almost. Non-designers think that by using images of money it shows that they can generate sales for customers, when in effect it can decrease the element of trust and makes the viewer question their ethics.

7. The Happy Family


“If you use our service we can make you this happy!” is the main message of this image. This one is easy spot a mile off, normally under the testimonials page or in extreme cases as the main header image.

6. The Staged Meeting


I have yet to see a photographer on standby in any meeting I’ve been involved with. This is tackiness at it’s best and should be avoided at all costs.

5. The Fingertips


Similar to cliche number 10, except this time the image shows that the business is so modern that it can actually be contacted not by just phone, but by the ground breaking technology of email. Drop us a line!

4. The Impressive Office


A photograph of state-of-the-art buildings may make your business look bigger than you actually are but when your customers visit your real premises you may have a little explaining to do.

3. The Business Team


We are powerful and serious, do not mess with us! Whilst this image is meant to make a business look approachable it can actually be deemed as quite intimidating.

2. The Pretty Call Centre Girl


Sexist, demeaning & predictable. Sex sells, so adding a bit of glamour to try and increase sales shouldn’t do any harm, when infact all it does is make the business in question look fake. Unfortunately, this kind of photograph is used on thousands of websites and reduces the element of trust between the viewer and the business.

1. The Almighty Handshake


This image is meant to scream trust & getting the deal done whilst at the same time maintaining that serious, corporate image. This is business. This is THE stock photography cliche of all time.

I hope you enjoyed this post and will agree with my choices. I’d be interested to know of any suggestions.



  1. 09/07/09
    2:58 pm
    I have used at least 7 of those over the years (mostly at client request), and I have used that ACTUAL telephone image and pretty sure I've used the handshake one too. I have no idea why some people can't think outside the chliche box. Its one thing to use something bland, but another thing to use the same photos that everyone else uses. Scary.
  2. 09/07/09
    3:44 pm
    ...but if it works, why not use it? After all, we are going for the widest of audiences, right?
  3. 09/07/09
    6:01 pm
    I think the only one missing is "the active outdoor shot" This is great.
  4. 10/07/09
    12:29 am
    ... & THATS the prettiest call centre girl you could find???
  5. 10/07/09
    12:03 pm
    You can check out some more of these Cliches at Viva la revolution!
  6. 10/07/09
    10:28 pm
    lol nido, list is pretty accurate
  7. 15/07/09
    12:58 pm
    LOL @ the pretty call girl center! cliche!
  8. 18/07/09
    6:20 pm
    This particular photo of this girl is its own cliché.
  9. 18/07/09
    6:21 pm
    Where's the globe? Gotta show a globe to show one's global reach in this global economy.
  10. 18/07/09
    6:41 pm
    gr.. 8 ! nice cliches
  11. 19/07/09
    5:19 am
    Where's the person jumping for joy on the beach symbolizing financial freedom and stress free life?
  12. 25/07/10
    4:56 pm
    Heh. So true. I'm only an amateur but I have a lot of interest in the subject. =) I like it! At least, you guys are all nice and not behaving like... 'adults' do nowadays. :P =D I am writing an article on cliche photography for my school photography club... Any recommendations, comments or some info that might help me? =)
  13. 28/04/12
    2:21 am
    I have no idea why some people can’t think outside the chliche box.
  14. 07/06/15
    11:18 pm
    Nice list, definitely some websites come in mind with those cliches.
Voice Your Opinion

Thanks for your comment, it will appear here once it has been moderated.